I could easily devote this entire review to roughly four minutes of this film. I am of course referring to Hermione’s reading of “The Three Brothers”, a wizard fairy tale that is part of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. This is by far my favorite moment out of any of the Harry Potter films, and while I won’t talk about it exclusively, I will talk about it a lot.
Going into the movie I was curious how the tale of “The Three Brothers” would be introduced. The fairy tale blends into the book’s story seamlessly, but this is easy to do when dealing with words on a page. How would the filmmakers translate this to the screen without losing the audience’s attention? At best I expected something similar to how pensieve memories were depicted in previous installments– muted colors and fuzzy scene transitions. Worst case scenario I expected it to be heavily altered. Instead the audience was given a gorgeously animated sequence aided by narration straight from the novel. I was so thrilled and in awe of what I was seeing that I starting tearing up in the theater (which Ben will say isn’t that big of a deal since I cry at everything, but this was a happy cry, so different than 99% of my other cries). This was one of those magical movie moments that made me feel like a kid again, when everything in the films I was watching was new and exciting and surprising and it all felt real.
Ok, but what about the rest of the movie? I have to say, I was amazed by how well Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was put together. The decision to split the final book into two movies was a move I approved of. Trying to cram everything that happens in book seven into a single film would have meant huge cuts and that the pacing would have been too frantic. A large portion of this novel revolves around Harry, Hermione, and Ron camping in the woods, with very little action happening. Allowing this sequence of events to unfold slowly drives home the monotony of their mission, and makes the hopelessness they feel more real.
Not that there isn’t any action in this movie. This is Harry Potter, after all. One of the most tense and entertaining parts is when the trio infiltrate the Ministry of Magic using Polyjuice Potion. This sequence relies on the talents of three adult actors, who must convincingly portray Harry, Hermione, and Ron pretending to be these random ministry employees. I imagine that stepping into these iconic roles would be intimidating even for a seasoned actor, but these three do an amazing job of impersonating Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. (And even better, there is more of this sort of role-switching fun in the next movie.) The climax of this film is also full of thrilling action, with even darker violence and more heartache for fans.
So here we go, the final ride in this Harry Potter marathon has begun. Well, Part 1 of the final ride has begun anyway. The makers of this film were screwed no matter which direction they went with this. If they had kept it one movie, as they had done with every book before it, fans would have been outraged at everything that had to be cut in order to squeeze the film into a run time of 2.5-3 hours. If they had cut the movie into two, moron fans would have been outraged at the obvious cash grab of turning one Harry Potter book into two movies. Producers chose the second route, and there was the obvious fan backlash because of it. I have no problem with what they did because it meant that Harry’s final adventure was given the scope and attention it deserved. They could not do this with every book as the child actors were quickly getting old, but I am glad they did it with this final one.
Harry Potter’s (Daniel Radcliffe) last story starts off with him still reeling from the death of Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). However, Harry has figured out how to kill Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), by destroying all of his soul-carrying horcruxes. Together with Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), they set off to destroy the remaining horcruxes and stop Voldemort before he can destroy the wizarding world they hold so dear.
This film continues the series progression into dark territory. Things are dire for Harry when we meet him. Voldemort and his stooges have infiltrated the Ministry of Magic and have basically turned him into an outlaw. Harry is also dealing with the death of his mentor Dumbledore. The thing I like about this film is, similar to the book, you feel like nobody is safe. Any character could bite the dust at any time, and there is definitely that threat there that you never really felt before in the series. Even the trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione seem like they’re in mortal danger at all times. It adds to the suspense of this film really well.
There is a bit of an abrupt ending, but it was really only an issue during the time before the next film was released, because, let’s face it, who is watching this film and then not sticking Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in right after it?